International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
loading and unloading zones of Municipal Airport reeked of carbon
monoxide as teams of faded yellow taxicabs jockeyed into positions
for their potential passengers. A man stood amidst the canary-colored
vehicles. He had three suitcases that were uniformly positioned
from largest to smallest, the largest resting ever so slightly
on the mans right calf.
A slight breeze
lifted the semi-transparent exhaust fumes from the cars and one cloud
slowly lingered around the suitcases before dissipating into the cold
A slight shadow of stubble that surrounded his lower face mixed with
the weariness of his sunken eyes, producing the features of a man that
had just returned from a journey that had taken years from his life.
His cheeks looked as though they were finally getting some color back.
He was wearing his cleanly pressed Army Combat Uniform given to him
after his discharge from the service. The olive green uniform was a
brilliant piece of craftsmanship, not one stitch out of place. It held
with it a radiance of professionalism, except for one minor flaw. The
measurements for the uniform were for that of a man 30 pounds heavier
than the one wearing it. The fabric wrinkled off his shoulders. This
man looked extremely emaciated, as if he had gone three months as an
MIA in the South Pacific, which was the reality of his recent past.
During that hellish nightmare, food had been a scarce commodity, and
he had just recently been finding his hunger and had an easier time
holding down food. Amongst the other bustling commuters he looked like
a boy in that mans uniform.
While he was waiting, the man checked his luggage, making sure that
it was still uniformed. He then reached into his left breast pocket
and took out a black and white picture of a young woman. The sight of
the picture made him crack a quick grin at first, but as he continued
staring, his features changed to a distant gaze. He stared at the woman,
gazing at her as though she seemed foreign to the man, as if the woman
had been from a different time, when he was a different person: youthful,
energetic, carefree, and altogether innocent. He studied the picture
a moment more before running his thumb gently across her face. Then,
as quickly as he had retrieved the picture, he placed it back into his
pocket and buttoned the flap. He straightened out his shirt, tucked
it in, made sure the buttons traveled a straight line, and checked the
nametag to make sure that it wasnt crooked. The name "Schmitt"
glistened back in the sun. It was time for him to finally go home. All
that he had to do now was to wait in anticipation.
Chad Koker had managed to wedge his car into the current of vehicles
both arriving and departing the airport. He did not enjoy going to such
a cramped destination. Fender benders and mass confusion seemed to always
lurk in these outposts. But he had been radioed to pick up one Joseph
Schmitt from the "Municipal" and take him directly to his
wife, Margaret. This pickup was a "Code One," meaning that
lift was of the utmost importance and treated with swift action and
attention. The reason that Koker had been told that this was a priority
was that this Joseph Schmitt had been away at war and at home was a
woman who had not seen her husband for God knows how long.
Koker opened his door and grabbed for the cigarette teetering in the
space between his right ear and his oily black hair. He held a small
white sign with the word "Schmitt" stenciled on it in his
right hand and upon rounding the drivers side of the car; he placed
the sign in front of his slightly protruding belly. He and noticed a
small, quiet man in Armed Forces attire waiting with his bags next to
him as he had put the car into park, but he would wait until the man
read the sign and see if he went for his luggage before he would be
sure. He placed his backside on the hood of the cab and rested momentarily;
slightly twisting his body left to right, making sure the whole airport
audience could read.
The small man did not seem to notice the cabbie. His thoughts seemed
off into the clouds, staring at the sky. His lips moved ever so slightly
as if he was speaking under his breath but no words could be heard from
the cab. His daydream was not a nightmare, but the fantasy did not seem
to be pleasing the man either. Koker coughed loudly then looked down
at his feet. He pretended to fiddle with the cigarette that had been
lit and was now halfway smoked though. He waited for a few seconds before
looking up in the direction of the man again; making sure that there
had been enough time for reality to snap back in and the sign to be
When he did finally look up, he noticed that the man was in the process
of grasping all three pieces and was shuffling them in his general direction.
He had stared away too long, creating a scenario in which he looked
like a lazy cab driver, impatiently waiting for his fare. He cursed
under his breath for his ignorance and then stepped towards the man
"Mr. Schmitt, let me take your bags. I know youre in hurry
to get back home." The cabbie awkwardly grabbed for Joes
luggage with his left hand and extending his right to shake Joes.
"I thank you for all you have done for our country. Youre
a true hero
Joe looked down at the hand and then at the man. He slowly let go of
his belongings and took it but spoke no acceptance of the gesture to
Koker. His handshake was rather brief but forceful. He then shifted
his gaze from Koker to the ground down before making his way to the
backseat of the cab. He slowly shut the back door as Koker remained
on the sidewalk for a second, gathering his thoughts. The cabbie looked
at the backseat, pondered on what to say next, turned his head to the
bags and then shrugged and opened the trunk.
What do you say to a man who has come back from war? A man who has placed
his life and his hope on the line, all for the future of the country
that told him to go fight for honor? These thoughts raced through the
Chads head as he closed the trunk, got in and started the car.
He would never understand the reality of war, nor did he even try to
understand it. The only understandable thought was that this man had
been living in totally different world than the one that Chad knew and
he needed to get this guy home quickly. Koker had a girlfriend and he
knew what it felt like to be away from a loved one for a number of days
or more at a time. But off to war was different story. There was nothing
to compare that to.
The trip was quiet on their way back to the house. Koker wanted to congratulate
him on making it back. He wanted to call him a hero. He just wanted
to say something but as he looked at Joe, he could see in the eyes of
the man that he was somewhere else. His body was in the backseat of
a cab, but his thoughts were outside, drifting from his eyes that continued
to stare into space. He was distant and silent, a man that either had
a million things or nothing at all on his mind. He continued to drive.
He felt a somber happiness for the man. He never would know what he
went through, never know the horrors.
They were in Sheffield again, the end route. Koker drove past Caseys
General Store and made left at the next rode. He glanced into the rearview
mirror to see his passenger needed to be woken up. No, Joe was awake.
Actually, he seemed much more than just awake. His thoughts had come
back into the cab. His face, although not smiling, still appeared to
have a vibrant character to it and his eyes seemed a shade brighter.
As they neared the house Joe looked around at a town that had to be
different, one he thought he would probably never see again.
"Were getting close sir. A few more blocks and youll
"Stop here." It was the first thing that Joe had said since
entering the car.
Chad hesitated before stepping on the brakes. They were still two or
three blocks away. "But sir, were not to your house ye
"Stop here, sir." Joe paused for a moment and then swallowed
hard, "and wait please."
Koker pulled over to the right and stopped in front of a small white
house, nowhere close to the address he was given. The white house they
stopped in front of was old and decrepit; a small piece of guttering
was lying on the front lawn. He wanted to ask some questions, but Joe
was already out of the car. He wondered whose house this was and why
a man would want to stop here before his own home. Was he given the
Then he noticed that Joe was walking behind the car and crossing the
street. He was not moving towards the feeble white house. Koker fixed
his eyes on a small church. He watched as Joe picked up his pace, practically
running into the through the front doors.
He had been waiting for 5 minutes when Joe emerged from the front doors
of Saint Patricks Catholic Church with a priest. They walked down
the steps together, both laughing with one another, the priests
arm over Joes shoulders. Joe turned towards the pastor, took his
hand, shook it, and then gave him a hug, ending with a strong pat on
the back. Joe walked back to the car, taking the sleeve of his uniform
and wiping his nose and face. His eyes were red as he entered the back
"All right sir, we can go to my house now." Joe looked at
the rearview mirror. Koker sat in silence for a moment then started
the car and drove the remaining 5 blocks.
As they approached the house Koker stared at Joe from the rearview mirror
again. He wanted to say something, but nothing came to him to break
the ice. Then, as if Joe was reading his mind, he began to speak. His
head was held low, his eyes staring at the floor mat. His voice was
soft and cracked as he spoke. "Sir, I thank you for stopping and
waiting for me as I went to my church
I made a deal with a man
a while ago when I was in some trouble. I told him that if he got me
out of that trouble, the first thing that I would do when I got home,
even before seeing my family, was to go to his house and visit him
thank him. He answered me and I had to start repaying the debt."
Koker unloaded the bags from the trunk as Joe stared at his farmhouse.
He stood there, frozen in time, just like the house in front of him.
He smiled slightly and then turned to the cabbie and handed him a dollar.
"I cant take this," said the cabbie.
"Yes you can," Joe said. "You made me a very happy man
today. I havent felt this way for a long time. I only have two
true loves in my life. You took me to one and now you have dropped me
off at the other, and for that I am eternally grateful. Thank you."
He shook Kokers hand, took a small breath, held it, then exhaled
and began walking towards his house. The cabbie looked at the dollar
that lay slightly creased in his hand. He looked at Joe, then got into
his cab, pulled away, and watched the man returning to his past life
in the rearview mirror as he drove away.
© Benjamin Gerhardt November 2006
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.